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Page last updated at 12:08 GMT, Sunday, 30 May 2010 13:08 UK

Justine Henin sees off Maria Sharapova comeback

French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Date: 23 May-6 June
Coverage:
Live video streamed from 1000 BST on BBC Sport website (UK only) and BBC red button; commentary on BBC 5 live sports extra; also live on Eurosport; text commentary on BBC Sport website Details of BBC coverage

Justine Henin
Henin polished off Sunday's set in 48 minutes after the match was halted for bad light at one set apiece on Saturday evening

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros

Justine Henin fought off a resurgent Maria Sharapova to reach the fourth round and stay on course for a fifth French Open title.

The Belgian took the final set when the match resumed on Sunday to win 6-2 3-6 6-3 after play had stopped the previous night with the score at one set all.

It takes the 22nd seed through to a fourth-round meeting with Australia's Sam Stosur and keeps alive her unbeaten six-year stretch at Roland Garros, which includes the last two years when the former world number one did not play because she was in retirement.

606: DEBATE
Phrasmotic

Having reached the final of the Australian Open in January, a matter of weeks after ending that 20-month spell out of the game, the four-time French Open champion was widely expected to pick up where she had left off at Roland Garros in 2007, where she completed a hat-trick of wins.

And the 27-year-old had made the better start in cold, damp conditions on Saturday evening, with victory in sight when she led by a set and 3-3, 15-40.

But Sharapova, 23, had been more than holding her own and saw off the danger before finally getting the better of the Henin serve in the next game, having already seen seven break points slip by.

The Russian was able to serve out the set before time was called on day seven, and the pair returned to a marginally brighter but still cold and gloomy Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday lunchtime for what was now a winnner-takes-all set.

Both women have struggled with remodelled service actions since returning from their time out of the game and service holds were as much at a premium as breaks of serve.

Henin made a dreadful start to the second part of the match, double-faulting and sending a forehand long to drop serve straight away and falling 0-40 down two games later.

But the Belgian then went on the attack, saving four break points in the game - twice with nerveless volleys - and it was now Sharapova's turn to falter.

Henin climbed all over the Russian's serve to break back for 2-2 and the Sharapova forehand broke down completely as three successive errors on that side saw Henin move 4-2 clear.

She served her way out of the game really well but at 2-1 I was a little bit more tentative than I was in the first three games

Maria Sharapova on the third game of the final set

However, neither player is yet in the form that once allowed them to close out big matches seemingly with ease and a single break of serve guaranteed nothing, as Henin proved by double-faulting on break point in game seven.

Sharapova still trailed 4-3 though and the dramatic service game that followed ended when Henin converted her second break point with a rasping backhand down the line.

There was to be one more nervous moment for Henin on match point when she double-faulted for the 10th time, but she was already 40-0 up and victory was clinched moments later when Sharapova hooked a backhand into the tramlines.

Sharapova said afterwards that the third game of the final set had proved pivotal.

"She served her way out of the game really well but at 2-1 I was a little bit more tentative than I was in the first three games," the Russian admitted.

"She started being a little bit more aggressive and feeling much better about her game. In the beginning I felt like I was being the more aggressive of the two of us and that kind of changed the momentum of the match."

She's a champion, so as soon as you give her the opportunities, if you play a little bit too short and you don't take the opportunities, she takes them

Henin on Sharapova

Henin agreed, saying she had been left with no option but to go on the attack.

"I had no more choice," she said. "Sometimes when you're under pressure a little bit you don't have any other choice, but she started the set very good. I mean, she's a champion, so as soon as you give her the opportunities, if you play a little bit too short and you don't take the opportunities, she takes them.

"So at that time I really had to stay calm. It wasn't that easy. I was feeling a bit nervous at that time. Then that game was a relief and really helped me to feel free and just to play my game."

Asked about the playing conditions late on Saturday evening, Henin was less than impressed.

"I think we should have stopped a little earlier because it was really dark, but I didn't ask the umpire because I knew they absolutely wanted to try to go to the end of the second set, which I understood.

"I don't know what Maria thought about it, but we should have stopped maybe two or three games earlier because it was really difficult. But no excuses, it was the same for both players. She took advantage of that."

And while Sharapova was far from happy with the conditons on Saturday, she would only say "it's the way it is" when asked about the scheduling.

"It was raining, it wasn't just drizzling, and then it gets dark but that's tennis for you," she added. "Today could have been bright and sunny but it wasn't, but you've got to be ready for everything - we're in Europe."



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French Open women's draw
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